Pair Curule Benches, about 1830–35
Mahogany (secondary woods: ash and chestnut)
16 3/4 in. high, 20 3/4 in. long, 16 in. deep
EXHIBITED: Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 2001–02, Of the Newest Fashion: Masterpieces of American Neo-Classical Decorative Arts, p. 93 cat. 32 // Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 2014–15, Very Rich & Handsome: American Neo-Classical Decorative Arts, p. 64 cat. 29 illus. in color
Although Duncan Phyfe is largely remembered for the tasteful reeded and carved furniture that his shop produced in the years about 1810–15, during the next thirty or so years he continued to produce furniture in a succession of styles influenced by current English and French designs. A leader in establishing a taste for new forms in the Neo-Classical taste, Phyfe produced a number of stools, benches, chairs, sofas, etc., that look to the curule form of the folding seats used by Roman magistrates as their model.
Many of Phyfe's contemporaries produced furniture much like his, and, barring any specific documentation of the sort that accompanies a few pieces of Phyfe furniture, including a similar pair of benches in the suite of furniture that Phyfe made for Samuel A. Foot’s home at 678 Broadway, and now in the Greek Revival Parlor in The American Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, it is usually impossible to sort out his work from that of his most gifted contemporaries. Hence, with respect to the attribution of a pair of benches like this, it is best to say "New York, about 1830–35."